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University Communications

Tracy Co-authors JAMA Ginkgo Memory Study

An article in the November 19 Journal of the American Medical Association and co-authored by University of Vermont Professor of Pathology and Biochemistry Russell Tracy, Ph.D., reported that the herb Ginkgo biloba was not effective in reducing the rate of dementia or Alzheimer's disease after several years' use.

Jointly sponsored by the National Center on Complementary and Alternative Medicine NCCAM), National Institute on Aging and National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial sought to examine whether taking Ginkgo biloba had beneficial effects on memory and cognition in more than 1,500 elderly study participants.

Between 2000 and 2008, participants at five academic medical centers in the United States were randomized to receive either a twice-daily dose of 120-milligram extract of Ginkgo biloba or placebo and were assessed every six months for dementia.

Tracy, who was a member of the study's steering committee, as well as leader of the core laboratory for the trial, said "This was the flagship trial for NCCAM. I'm very excited that this carefully done study came out as cleanly and with such clear results as it did. The committee is enormously happy that, though difficult to run in older people, we have such a clean answer on this widely-used over-the-counter supplement."

The core lab's role, according to Tracy, was to screen participant blood samples before and during the study for the development of kidney disease and liver disease. "What we mainly did was safety work," said Tracy. "With our partners at Fletcher Allen's clinical labs, we were able to ensure that the right people entered the study."

Tracy and colleagues are currently engaged in two new research efforts — one which examines biomarkers for renal (kidney) function and another study that is looking for biomarkers for cognitive function decline related to Alzheimer's disease. To read a copy of the study, go to JAMA Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) Study.